Could Fat Really Be Your Friend?
Fat, Fat, Fat. For most of my life I have been told that in order to be healthier and lean I needed to eat less fat. The people who said this were conventional doctors, friends, and family members. All of these people got their information from scientific investigators who studied populations. They in turn submitted their information to the federal government who in turn created the government regulations on nutrition. Those guidelines trickled down into schools, hospitals, nutritional curriculums, and inner cities which affected school lunches, hospital menus, daycare menus, WIC offices, and food stamps.
These recommendations were further enforced by the food pyramid that was posted on the walls of health centers and pediatric offices everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You had to be living under a rock to not know that the base of the old food pyramid recommended 6-11 servings each day of breads, pastas, and carbohydrates. Following these guidelines grocery shopping took on an entirely new twist as packaged foods proudly announced from the shelves that they were low-fat or fat free. Everyone wanted fat–free foods, because that was the right thing to eat. Less fat for sure would keep you out of the cardiologist’s office and prevent you from dying of a heart attack.
And somewhere along the way cholesterol got roped into the process. Newly released anti-cholesterol drugs were promoted and additional recommendations were touted stating that we should reduce our dietary cholesterol intake (high cholesterol containing foods). This further linked cholesterol with fat and promoted an entire society to shy even further away from it.
I didn’t give it much thought really, I had been so immersed in the train of thought that fat was bad I just accepted it as truth. It wasn’t until one day in Naturopathic Medical School when I was sitting in biochemistry class that my professor made three statements that had me sitting at the edge of my seat.
- The first thing he said is saturated fat is not the villain. It is an extremely stable molecule that the body is accustomed to dealing with.
- The second thing he said was trans fats are the evil villain and are causing a hardening of our cell membranes leading to heart disease. (trans fats have now been banned, they are polyunsaturated fats most commonly seen in margarine and baked goods between 1970-2008).
- The third thing he said is that dietary intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates increases triglycerides in the blood and contributes to elevations in cholesterol.
And here’s the best part, he spent the remainder of the class explaining the biochemical pathways to back it all up.
Cholesterol is an essential building block of the body required to make healthy cells and hormones. It is impossible to live without it.
Our brain is made up of 60% fat. The fat that we eat is what the brain uses for it’s internal makeup. There is no extra source of fat to the brain.
So how could we as a society have become so misled when it comes to the story about fat and then in turn cholesterol?
We have certainly not gotten healthier as a population. Over the last 40 years, we have become more obese than ever, with pre-diabetes rates and metabolic syndrome at an all time high.
The answer is partly poor investigative research and/or human error. There is bad research and there is good research and then there is the interpretation of the research which can be swayed based on the bias of the investigator.
The second part of the answer is that the food lobbyists are present at a round table with the federal government and they review the recommendations of the scientific investigators who submit a report based on the study of the health and disease statistics in the US.
What it comes down to is a handshake money game between the federal government and the food lobbyists. Only about 20% of the findings by the scientific investigators actually create change in the new recommendations.
This is why if you look at the newly revised food pyramid red meat, processed meats and soda are still on it at the top of the pyramid.
After discovering this you’ve probably made a note that the federal government doesn’t exactly hold your health in the highest regard when it’s making new recommendations. So it’s up to you to get informed so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
Benefits of Healthy Fat:
*Increases satiety and decreases appetite
*Keeps you satisfied longer in between meals and decreases snacking tendencies.
*Promotes the burning of stored fat calories
*Plant based polyunsaturated oils have key compounds that neutralize free radicals and decrease oxidation of foods in your body.
What kinds of fat and how much?
These are listed from highest health benefit to lowest.
Depending on your individual health needs and concerns fat intake can range from 20%-50% of your diet.
Here’s the bottom line with saturated fat. In terms of obesity it is healthier to eat than trans fats and it is healthier to eat than sugar and refined carbohydrates. It is less healthy than plant based polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils.
- Plant based polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the healthiest – Nuts, seeds, cold pressed oils, avocado, olives and olive oil. – Consume Frequently
(It’s important to note that the main Harvard employed scientist who submits the scientific reports rates good quality olive oil as his numero uno choice in oils.)
- Plant based saturated fat – coconut oil – Consume Moderately
- Animal based saturated fats: Organic butter, dairy products and ghee (ghee is a clarified butter where the casein protein has been removed making it easier to digest than butter). – Consume Sparingly
(It is important to note that cow milk consumption after childhood has been linked to obesity and cancer and increased fracture risk)
- Saturated fats from grass fed red meat, wild game, and lamb – Consume Sparingly
- Saturated fats from grain/corn fed red meat, pork. – Avoid
- Evil trans fat – Avoid Completely
**For a complete listing of oils by category click here to be taken to my blog on coconut oil.
-I honor You, Dr. Purcell